How Inertial Labs and Stitch3D are Democratizing LIDAR Applications

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Clark Yuan
Clark Yuan
May 13, 2024
4 min

When Inertial Labs and Stitch3D first discussed forming a partnership, one top priority for both companies was to make it easier for anyone to access LIDAR point cloud data directly on the web. To promote greater LIDAR adoption with not just experienced LIDAR operators but also with industry newcomers who may never have experienced LIDAR before, Inertial Labs decided to migrate its highly-regarded RESEPI sample datasets from Google Drive to Stitch3D – a cloud platform capable of viewing, analyzing, and sharing large volumes of point cloud data with ease.

For years, LIDAR has been an industry secret amongst engineering and surveying firms, requiring domain knowledge and trained operators working with specialized 3D desktop software to extract data intelligence. These workflows are typically siloed to an individual engineer's local desktop with deliverables being shared via hard drives. However, as LIDAR sensors have become increasingly accessible, being found on everything from drones to vehicles to backpacks and iPhones, the LIDAR market is quickly expanding beyond industry insiders and there is now a need to make LIDAR accessible to the layman. Industries such as mining, oil and gas, forestry, law enforcement, transportation, insurance, gaming, and even national security are recognizing the advantages of 3D analytics. Yet the software for processing, viewing, and analyzing point clouds remains complex and desktop-based, leaving many people exasperated when attempting to scale the point cloud education curve.

Drone-mounted RESEPI XT-32M2X for Aerial LIDAR Scan

Case Study: The U.S. Air Force

Although LIDAR technology was first invented by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1961 to search for missiles in the Cuban jungle during the Cold War, its military applications have remained limited through the decades due to the cost of data collection and an archaic suite of geospatial analytics software. Even today, data is primarily transferred via hard drives or blue-ray disks, making LIDAR an ineffective tactical intelligence tool. Yet modern battlefield requirements are changing rapidly, and access to accurate point cloud data at the tactical point of need can be the difference in saving lives.

Consider the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. Just hours after hostilities were announced, Russian airborne troops attacked Antonov Airport in Kyiv, marking the first battle of the war. The attack completely devastated the airport, leaving runways cratered and inoperable.

Craters dot the Antonov Airport after Russian Attack

Military and civilian airports, bridges, and railways are amongst the most critical infrastructure to defend when hostilities are initiated. Control of the airspace is so vital that one of the U.S. Air Force’s core wartime missions is Rapid Airfield Damage Assessment, or RADAS. The objective is simple. Assess how many craters are on the runway, collect volumetric information, and determine priority craters to repair so that a minimum operating strip (MOS) can be established from which fighter jets can takeoff and land to defend the airspace—all in four hours or less.

RESEPI XT-32M2X Railway LIDAR Scan Viewed on Stitch3D Provides Superior Critical Infrastructure Situational Awareness

Currently, RADAS is a manual process and requires civil engineers and explosive ordnance disposal teams to inspect each crater, survey the volume , and mark each crater with a flag. In most training scenarios, this process takes six to ten hours – an unacceptable time that leaves the base vulnerable to follow-on attacks. However, employing LIDAR at the tactical point of need can change the equation. With a high-precision LIDAR sensor mounted on a drone, airfield managers and civil engineers can quickly scan the entire runway through smoke or in nighttime conditions, process and deliver a complete 3D visualization of the damaged runway, and quickly determine the volume of each crater. And all of this can be done in under an hour with a proper cloud native LIDAR-optimized solution.

This is precisely what the partnership between Inertial Labs and Stitch3D is striving to accomplish: rapidly deliver high-quality LIDAR data via the web at the tactical point of need.

3D Volumetrics can Significantly Decrease Airfield Damage Assessment Time

Using Stitch3D, Airmen can immediately inspect high-density RESEPI LIDAR data, take volume measurements, and share 3D analytics with anyone in the tactical operations center. Gone are the days when valuable LIDAR insights are locked behind time-consuming desktop-based software. Now, 3D point clouds can be delivered at the speed of SaaS.

The Future of LIDAR

As more and more industries buy into 3D intelligence, LIDAR will surely be at the forefront of the digital transformation. Already, police officers are collecting LIDAR scans of traffic accidents to deliver 3D forensics to insurance companies and prosecutors. Environmental protectionists and paper mill companies are leveraging LIDAR to monitor forest health. Municipalities are deploying vehicle-mounted LIDAR scanners to assess road conditions and estimate repair costs. The partnership between Inertial Labs and Stitch3D is the first step in unlocking the utility of 3D data.

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